Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Trying to get inside this fellow's head (the 1916 "Library of Health")

When you were a kid, did you ever lose an afternoon to browsing, entranced, through medical textbooks or anatomy books?1

Well, 1916's "Library of Health" — not its full title2 — must have been quite the attraction for curious children nearly a century ago.

The book, edited by three doctors3, has nearly 1,800 pages and is copiously illustrated with halftone and color plates. And the coolest feature: There are several multiple-layer, cross-section illustrations of body parts such the eye (shown above), ear and torso. Readers can lift the external illustration to get a glimpse of what lies beneath in the human body.4

Of these cross-sections, my favorite is a five-layer look inside the human head. Pretending to be Hannibal Lecter, readers can slowly peel away the skin and other layers of a fine-looking Caucasian gentleman.

Here are the layers, in order (click on any image for a larger version):

"A Picture of Good Health"

In case you were wondering where your mirthfulness is located...

My, what nice teeth you have...

For some odd reason, one of the few things I remember from my college psychology class is the part about severing the corpus callosum to cure some patients of their seizures.

Give him red eyes, and he'll be ready to chase Linda Hamilton.

Footnotes
1. No, wise guys, Playboy is not an anatomy book.
2. Yes, this is one of those books with a really long official title. It is (deep breath):
"Library of Health, Complete Guide to Prevention and Cure of Disease, Containing Practical Information on Anatomy, Physiology and Preventive Medicine; Curative Medicine, First Aid Measures, Diagnosis, Nursing, Sexology, Simple Home Remedies, Care of the Teeth, Occupational Diseases, Garden Plant Remedies, Alcohol and Narcotics, Treatment by Fifteen Schools of Medicine, Beauty Culture, Physical Culture, the Science of Breathing and the Dictionary of Drugs."
3. The authors of this book, which was issued by Historical Publishing Co. of Philadelphia, were B. Frank Scholl, Frank E. Miller and Anne McFarland Sharp, the last of whom also penned "Nervous Trouble Among Women." As a final aside, I found it mildly amusing that the copyright page states "All Rights Reserved, Including that of the Translation into Foreign Languages, Including the Scandinavian." Not sure why the Scandinavians had to be singled out there. Were they notorious copyright scoundrels?
4. The illustrations were done by E.J. Stanley. You can see more of them in this March 2012 blog post titled "The Diminishing Craft of Book Making (deprivation of the e-book)." Also, interestingly, The New York Times used Stanley's medical illustrations to jazz up this 2008 "How Much Do You Know About Your Body?" interactive online quiz.

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